When I started this blog, I wrote imaginary letters. It was an amusing rhetorical device, kept me entertained – and, more importantly, it preserved the idea I had that, really, I’m just sitting here, talking to you as an individual. That was, and is, important to me because I believe activism in this format is most effective when we have a connection, when we see each other as human beings living unique experiences.
I’ve been so proud, over the years, to be part of the fat acceptance movement, to be part of the fatosphere. Some amazing things have been accomplished. Every email I get or person who tells me they have decided to stop hating themselves because there are other options, better options… That is transformative.
But from the beginning, the fatosphere has struggled with intersectionality. Specifically, the fatosphere has struggled with racism. There’s enough overlap between the worlds of fatness and disability (though I do not support the conflation of the two) that people seem to be good about acknowledging the intersections there. But fat acceptance has proven remarkably awful – I’d say almost as awful as mainstream feminism – at being sensitive to issues of race.
This is unacceptable to me. I have worked, here at the Rotund, to be as inclusive as possible – and I’ve also fucked up plenty of times. I’ve not done as much as I could to make this space inclusive. That is totally on me.
But what I have tried to do, as much as possible, is at least not let racist shit slide.
And, y’all, my supposed allies in fat acceptance, I have to say very honestly and with sincerest regret that this letter is necessary, some of y’all are fucking this up.
If fat acceptance is a safe haven for racism in the name of solidarity and keeping the movement together, then I gotta tell you the truth: we’re doing it wrong. And not just a little wrong. If we are building a fat acceptance that supports racism then we are doing social justice fundamentally wrong on so many levels I cannot even.
I am debating with myself whether or not to link the post that has me all up in arms – I’ve long believed that we trade in pageviews on the internet. I don’t want to be cryptic by any means, but I also don’t want to drive traffic to sites that flat out don’t deserve it based on their own words and actions.
Let me explain – no, there is too much, let me sum up.
The Strong4Life campaign in Georgia is pretty much a bunch of gross fat hate. As so many of these initiatives prove, the path to hell really is paved with good intentions about saving the children. There was a response from the fat activist community – which I was really glad to see, even though I did not have the time or energy to participate myself. That’s the great thing about community – we don’t all have to fight every single fight.
I tell you that I didn’t have the time or energy straight up because I am not ashamed of that. We all have to balance our lives and our activism. And I also tell you because Shannon Atchka emailed me one day and basically threatened to “out” me in some fashion for being unwilling to help him. I’ve had my minor run ins with him before but I tried to have a fairly reasonable email conversation about how I wasn’t avoiding the campaign because of him – but my life was in a little bit of psychological shambles at the moment and I needed to focus on that. That didn’t go so well.
My plan was to just write it off as another difficult conversation with someone who essentially means well.
But now Shannon Atchka has decided to have a pity party and, frankly, some people have joined him in comments on his post about the matter.
Some of the comments on his post make me actively ashamed to be associated with fat acceptance as a racist movement – and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit quietly with that. Because fat acceptance belongs to me, too, just as much as it belongs to people making racist comments about how tired they are of being called out on their white privilege.
Listen, if you’re tired of being called on your privilege, consider that the people of color around you are probably EVEN MORE TIRED of having to deal with it. Plus they have to deal with living in an inherently racist society!
Yes, it absolutely sucks, my fellow fat white people, to be told that you have certain advantages. White privilege is a difficult concept for a lot of people.
But here is a basic fact of life: the people who most need to hear about something are the people who most protest hearing about it.
That means if you are kicking and screaming because someone called you out for doing or saying something racist… you might want to consider that the reason it feels so very awful is because YOU DID OR SAID SOMETHING RACIST.
Being called out is a favor, an act of kindness – someone is letting you know that your internalized racism is showing and getting all messy all over everything. It doesn’t feel very good at the time, but being corrected NEVER does. The key, the most important thing for you to do when you are called out, is to not freak out on the internet where you will only make things worse.
That’s what Shannon Atchka is doing. Atchka is calling out Julia Starkey because she dared to say something critical about Stand4Kids – the fat acceptance response to the Georgia campaign.
Now, I think Stand4Kids is a pretty cool concept. But I also accept and acknowledge that Julia was correct in her questions – and doing the people involved a favor by giving them a chance to explain what was going on.
It’s totally understandable to me, as a busy person, that the people involved in Stand4Kids were volunteers. And I definitely understand when people lack knowledge. But google exists for a damn reason. And creating a project or atmosphere of any kind that is welcoming to people of color involves more than an invitation to participate. That’s the tiniest step you can take in getting people of color involved. What you actually have to do – and if you don’t know how, that’s again why google is so very useful – is make your project or atmosphere actually welcoming. You have to create a space that invites diverse people to participate without fear of ridicule or hatred.
That is hard damned work. And I don’t think anyone is perfect at it.
The really great thing though is that no one is really expecting perfection. A genuine effort and a willingness to listen when we screw up is half the battle that we as fat white people trying to create diverse spaces have to fight. Screwing up is not the end of the world! It’s uncomfortable – we’re embarrassed and our feelings get hurt and we kind of flail around a little wishing no one had scolded us – but discomfort isn’t going to kill us. In fact, discomfort is a really great teacher, if we pay attention to it.
I see a lot of objection to the idea that people of color are not responsible for educating the people they call out. I get it, I do. It’s easy to think that if someone is going to call you out, they should put in the effort to tell you what you did that was so wrong and why it was so wrong. The problem with that is the obligation it places on the person who was offended or injured in the first place. The problem with that is that we as fat white people can, as I mentioned earlier, use google. Or we can talk to other fat white people! We are resources for each other in so many other things; we can help each other with this as well.
In fact, I’m going to volunteer to field racism 101 questions here – if you’ve been called out and you don’t understand why, you can ask me about it instead of the person of color who called you out. How about that?
There is a difference between saying a person of color is welcome to participate (and solve the diversity problem their own damn selves) and saying that it’s something that will be addressed. One is a deflection of responsibility – the other is an acknowledgement that it hasn’t happened yet but we want it to, we’re trying to make it happen.
I don’t beef on the internet. I have too many other things to do (fat things! and clown school!) to spend my time stirring up online drama. I love y’all and I want our time here together to be productive. I want us to feel empowered and amazing. I very very rarely post angry – mostly because I always feel bad for being all pissed off after the fact. But this is worth it, this is worth posting and waking up to dissenting opinions in the morning. Because I do not want to be part of a fat acceptance that claims it is divisive to point out racism. I do not want to be part of a fat acceptance that defaults to a white perspective, a white experience. A white face.
The strength we have is in our diversity, is in the uniqueness of our experiences. Our strength is in the summation of our identities, as varied as they are. Intersectionality is vital because it keeps us invigorated, strengthens us, teaches us.
I know that white people get tired of talking about racism. And sometimes it feels like we can’t get anything right. When that’s the case, we need to sit down and shut our mouths and listen. It’s difficult – but it’s worth the effort because we have so much to learn, so far to go. Because it is complete and utter bullshit that our social justice movement can be derailed by the racism of white fat activists.
This is the link I want you to follow:
a response to white fat activism
from People of Color in the fat justice movement
Please, my fellow fat white people. Let’s stop fucking this up.
July 3, 2009
| Posted in Action Plan
I have this big meaningful post worked up about eating disorders and being fat – that’s why I didn’t post yesterday, actually. But you know what? And I also want to talk about the value of compliments when you’re trying to pull yourself up out of the pit of self-loathing. But it’s Friday now and why don’t we save the big topics for Monday?
Right now, there’s a really interesting conversation going on in the Liz Jones post.
I’m not really familiar with Liz Jones. I don’t know much about her history of writing so I think that definitely colors my response to her piece. But having an eating disorder and being aware of how screwed up it can be does not mean someone isn’t also fat phobic.
I mean, we can hold all sorts of contradictory things in our heads at the same time.
And, for me, this goes back to the way that women – especially fat women – police each other. The way we snipe and put down and create arbitrary rules that we’re all expected to conform to less we be deemed unacceptable.
What do you think is going on with that? (I have my own ideas.) And what can we do to nip that shit in the bud, people? I want to formulate some strategies here, things we can do as individuals (and, again, I have my own ideas) to stop this habit in ourselves and in our communities in the larger sense.
June 3, 2009
| Posted in Action Plan, Body Image
An anonymous commenter in my personal journal expressed, in an anonymous secrets meme, that they were cool with how their body looked in the mirror but they saw a photo of themselves sitting down, taken from the side, and they could not recognize themselves.
Oh, man, do I sympathize. You get used to seeing one vision of your body and when you’re presented with an alternate view, it can really blindside you.
That’s because we carry a certain image of ourselves in our heads. We have this “normalized” vision and anything that deviates from that? It’s a shock.
The key to combating this, though, is to normalize those other views. What do I mean? I mean, check out your other angles. It probably took you a while to get comfortable with your front view in the mirror – keep that in mind right now. Give yourself a little bit of sympathy.
And then? Then you have to start the work of it. Isn’t that always the rub?
So, next time you go try things on, sit down in front of the mirror in the fitting room. You should be doing that anyway, actually, to test the fit of the clothes. After all, bodies change shape a lot when they significantly change position. This is, I have found for my body at least, especially true for pants.
Oh, dude, pants. Trousers. Whatever you want to call them.
Anyway. Check out that view in the mirror and let yourself get accustomed to it.
When you’re getting dressed at home and checking yourself out in the mirror, take a minute to check out the side view as well. Remember, the more you see it, the more “normal” it will look to you. It just takes some time to adjust.
There are some folks on the fatshionista livejournal community who include side views and back shots in their outfit pictures. I LOVE this. It really helps to see the 360 like that – especially when it comes to viewing my own body. Photos are such a great tool for this sort of thing.
If you hit a place where you’re doing good with mirrors, get a friend you trust (or a loved one who meets the same criterion) to take some pictures for you. Next, trust me on this one, leave those pictures alone for a little while. Give yourself a little bit of distance and time to wind down from the stress of having your pictures taken. It can be hard to have pictures taken of areas you aren’t comfortable with – respect that and treat yourself well. When you’ve gotten a bit of distance, go through the photos and be as nonjudgmental as possible.
It’s going to take a little while to be okay with this. You aren’t starting totally from scratch but it’s still kind of rough. Ride out the bad days and keep giving yourself room to feel better. It WILL get better.
June 1, 2009
| Posted in Action Plan, Body Image
I was at the book store this morning, getting a bit of writing done, when I overheard the barista talking to one of her customers. She knew the carb content of every drink he asked about, not to mention the calories. She talked about how much weight she’d lost and she just had to keep disciplining herself.
While disciplining one’s self has a certain kinky ring to it, she was, of course, referring to dieting.
And that’s when it hit me. Holy crap, y’all, it’s summer. It’s beach season. This time of year is second only to New Years for diet resolutions as people strain to make their bodies conform to a mental image they have of “acceptable.”
Otherwise, you know, they can’t possibly be seen in public in something so revealing as a sleeveless tank top, much less a bathing suit! *GASP* THE HORROR!
Here’s the thing, though. My body is fine the way it is. It isn’t an object for observation, it isn’t a piece of public property open for commentary. If other people like it or don’t, well, that doesn’t really matter when it comes right down to it. Especially when it’s 90 degrees and I want to go to the beach.
I live in Florida, as I have mentioned. Orlando is surprisingly landlocked – probably the most landlocked spot in the whole peninsular state, actually. Still, there’s beaches about an hour drive to both the east and the west. And even when I don’t find myself driving out there, I long for the local swimming pool. Honestly, I’m not a fan of tanning, but I am a fan of hot, hot weather, huge and clear blue skies, and a pool of water just right for swimming.
So, I’ve got two choices. I can struggle in vain to achieve a beach body or I can work on developing my beach mind.
A beach body has to have as little spare flesh as possible. You can’t have any bulges when you stand – and you can’t have any when you bend over or move around either. The beach body is passive rather than active – its purpose is to be observed and, supposedly, envied.
The beach mind, on the other hand, doesn’t really give a flip what other people think. The beach mind is there to enjoy the actual experience of being at the beach in an active way – and that doesn’t have to mean running, jumping, and climbing trees, if you know what I mean. The beach mind doesn’t have to be “perfect”, doesn’t have to be obsessed with minimizing its presence. The beach mind wants to have a damn day at the beach, people.
It’s not easy to develop the beach mind, especially when every magazine pretty much in existence is pushing its own summer diet stories. But do you want to sit inside and put off going to the beach until a day that will most probably never arrive? Or do you want to actually go to the beach and have a good time?
Being visible comes with certain risks and being up to dealing with that can take a little bit of mental prep work. The first thing to remember is why you’re going. Why ARE you going?
I don’t go to the beach to swim. Dude, STUFF lives in the ocean and it’s all really cool stuff but I’d rather not have any of it brush up against me. The ocean is better than freshwater for this but STILL. And yet, I still love going to the beach. I slather on the sunscreen (when I remember) and sit there soaking up how warm and just freaking glorious it is to be outside, listening to the water, under the giant sky, reading a book. I’m generally there to read a book.
At what point would I require a magazine-style beach body to sit on the beach and read? I don’t! And you don’t either, no matter what your purpose in going is.
If you still aren’t feeling up to dealing with the visibility of being at the beach alone, take some friends. It’s easier to deal with things when you are part of a group – part of a posse of fatties hanging out en masse, if you’ll excuse the pun. *grin*
Honestly, I love going places with other fatties. It really can be kind of a performance – people just aren’t used to seeing a group, even if it’s just three or four people, of death fatties walking around shamelessly and having a fantastic time. I think that’s good for all of us.
In my magical imagination, I can see fatties all over the place getting out of the house in their bathing suits, hanging out at the beach or the pool or the lake or the whatever. And it’s awesome.
On a practical note, Body Glide, y’all. If part of your discomfort in a bathing suit is related to chaffing, check this stuff out, seriously. I prefer the seamless bike short for wear under dresses but for running around the beach? The Body Glide is totally the way to go.
It’s summer time. It’s hot. Let’s have some fun with that. Beach Mind. I think it’s the new hotness for this summer, I really do, no matter what kind of swimsuit you’re wearing.
Hey, y’all! I am at Wiscon, having a great time (ETA: Okay, I’m actually BACK from Wiscon – I started this while I was there but then got totally absorbed into the convention). I was on an awesome panel and then I had dinner with some great people. One of my favorite things about geek cons is being able to make a Trek reference (which I’ve been doing constantly since seeing the new movie – see it in IMAX if you get the chance) and know that more people will get it than not.
There is something incredibly special about that feeling of common and shared experience. Community is a really powerful thing; it strengthens us to share experiences and reference points.
Of course, part of being a member of an oppressed group is feeling isolated from those community experiences. That’s why borrowing Lesley‘s jacket was such a damn big deal, you know? It was such a normative experience – where normative means what people with a certain kind of middle class thin privilege experience without so much as thinking about it.
I am really lucky because I get to be part of a fat community – and be part of building a fat community – where we can discuss both the commonalities and the things that make our myriad of fat experiences different.
The thing is, I am a white, cisgendered woman in a herterosexual relationship. I grew up kind of straddling class lines, but I live a pretty middle-class existence right now. And that means my experience is not going to give voice to everyone. I can speak TO fatties (and nonfatties) of different life experiences but I cannot speak FOR them. I CAN give people a platform to share their experiences which is why I try to have guest posters fairly often. But since I’m not as involved in the blogosphere as deeply as I should be I fall down on that a lot and I apologize for that.
Because I do want this to be a space where diverse people can come together and discuss things. The things and experiences we share and the things and experiences that we do not. Diversity is, I think, our greatest strength as a community, as a social justice movement. The more stories that are told, the more voices that are represented, the better. Wiscon has really underscored this for me, through the things it got right and through the bits of fail that happened.
For me, though my unpublished but highly draconian comment policy stays in place (if you are a troll, you get marked as spam, easy, breezy, beautiful, to coopt an advertising slogan), this means making it really clear that, while I as a blogger can only occupy the identity that I inhabit, I want to hear from people with different identities, different experiences, different social constructs that define them. I want everyone to feel welcome here, as much as it is possible for me to make that happen.
I run into problems because I am not always sure how to make that happen, how to keep that acknowledgment and atmosphere of welcome front and center. The Rotund has become a sort of personal designation for me – people call me that and that’s what on my Wiscon namebadge, for example. But I started this space because I wanted it to be bigger than, you know, my personal livejournal.
Which means I have more work to do here. I could be all, “oh, I’ve been stretched so – forgive the metaphor – thin with work and freelance and the book and blah blah blah for so long” and it would be true because I do think there is only so much any one person can do sometimes and that sucks, of course, but it is reality. That’s not going to create a more welcoming atmosphere for diversity, though.
So. I’m talking to several people about efforts we can make across the Fatosphere. I’m committing to reading more blogs by more diverse people (I’m guilty of using the Fatosphere Feed as my primary source of blogs unless I know you and you’ve pointed me at your blog) so I can link to them here – I have a certain platform and I want to make sure to share that with people. I’m a huge fan of guest posts and I want to expand the group from which I traditionally draw them. I want to actually write out my comment policy so that it is very clearly stated what will get you labeled as a troll around here (hate-speech is definitely the way to go to get yourself a one-way ticket to the spam filter).
And, while I’m not expecting people to do my work for me, if you’ve got any suggestions, I’m always eager to hear them.
In the meantime, though I started this blog as a general sort of fat and body politics blog (and I’ll still talk about general fat issues), I want to inject some more specifically death fat style discussion as well. There IS a difference between being a size 14 and being a size 24 and being a size 34 and so on. And acknowledging that and talking about it is a good thing for all of us.
I got to meet so many people while at Wiscon. People I’ve known on livejournal for years, activists, friends, etc. I also go to meet Debbie and Laurie from Body Impolitic (and Laurie’s photos really are world changing). (I also looked for Stef who maintains the Fat Friendly Health Professionals list but never found her, unfortunately. I would love to have some fat-specific conversations with people who work toward FA next year.) Our conversations, while brief, really clarified for me just how much I want to this to be an activist space and how NECESSARY such spaces are for all of us. And I want that to be true for all of the Fatosphere – and as a long-time member of the Fatosphere I don’t feel like I’m overstepping my bounds when I claim some voice in directing its growth. We all have that voice, if we step up to it, particularly those of us who have privilege that gives our voice more volume.
This is all going to be in development. It’s all well and good for me to SAY I want a diverse space but my actions have to back that up. I mean, it’s not like trust is built in an instant. So there’s not a neat and tidy closure to this entry. I wish there were but I feel at this point like I just need to post the damn thing. *grin*
Childhood obesity, OH NOES!
One of my least favorite topics has been popping up a lot again lately: what to do about fat kids.
Honestly, I feel like “doing something” has become a goal in and of itself. It doesn’t actually matter WHAT we do, as long as we’re doing something! As long as we are active – as activity is a virtue.
There’s a heck of a lot of irony to me saying this. I’m not very good at sitting still. I’m almost always in the middle of multiple projects. If anyone said that I am a fan of doing for the sake of having something to do, well, I wouldn’t really argue with them too much.
But when that same frantic vibe gets into the fabric of our culture, we wind up with some problems.
First of all, we don’t actually know what putting young kids (much less babies) on diets does to those kids in the long term. We’ve got kind of an instant gratification culture going on here, though, so considering consequences that aren’t immediate isn’t an automatic thing for us. That’s okay when you’re pursuing ephemeral fashion trends; it’s more problematic when you are, in essence, experimenting on children.
Yeah, I said it. I equated putting kids on diets to experimenting on children. I mean, if you really want to make things about the well-being of teh futorz, maybe considering what sort of impact this will have on metabolism over a person’s lifetime would be a good question to ask!
I don’t have a problem with encouraging kids to be more active. But I do think it’s ill-advised to force kids into rigorous exercise regimens. All you’re doing is teaching them that physical activity sucks. That’s not a good life lesson! You’re also teaching them that the only purpose for physical activity is in the pursuit of exercise. You’re making their potential well of life experience shallower.
Listen, restricted calorie diets were judged to be an effective “enhanced interrogation” technique by the CIA. Are you really, just in the interest of Doing Something, going to get behind feeding kids less than we feed inmates in federal prisons?
And, while we’re on the topic, has shaming kids proven effective in, you know, any way, shape, or form? Do the 11-year-old kids committing suicide because of bullying not give you a clue that maybe, just maybe, shaming kids is a dangerous thing, especially if you think you’re doing it “for their own good”?
Stop that, too.
Not all parents are good parents. There is no disputing that. But you can’t look at a fat kid and presume to know anything about that kid’s life based solely on their weight any more than you can look at a fat adult and do the same. In fact, the efforts you’re making to help these kids that you think are so endangered are actually dangerous.
I know you want to Do Something. So I will suggest something: Get involved in a mentoring program. Teach a kid how to do something. Advocate for kids who are disadvantaged for any number of reasons. Encourage the kids in your life to get to know themselves, to develop a sense of healthy self-respect. Teach your own kids that bodies are different and that’s awesome.
If you don’t think you can do that, that’s okay. Just stay away from kids.
May 1, 2009
| Posted in Action Plan, Health
WASHINGTON – Government health officials warned dieters and body builders Friday to immediately stop using Hydroxycut, a widely sold supplement linked to cases of serious liver damage and at least one death.
The Food and Drug Administration said the maker of the dietary supplement has agreed to recall 14 Hydroxycut products. Available in grocery stores and pharmacies, Hydroxycut is advertised as made from natural ingredients. At least 9 million packages were sold last year, the FDA said.
Dr. Linda Katz of the FDA’s food and nutrition division said the agency has received 23 reports of liver problems, including the death of a 19-year-old boy living in the Southwest. The teenager died in 2007, and the death was reported to the FDA this March.
Y’all, we knew dieting is bad for you but if you or anyone you know is using Hydroxycut, please stop using it and consult with your doctor. Your liver (or, you know, your life) is worth more than being thin.
April 19, 2009
| Posted in Action Plan, Make Up, Videos
and I will be appearing on CNN’s American Morning tomorrow (they tell me around 8 a.m. EST, though that’s subject to change) to discuss the United thing.
So far, I think I am wearing green. Also, they said to do my makeup the way I normally would.
Soooo, we’ll see y’all in the morning! Hopefully we’ll be able to score a youtube segment of it later so that anyone who misses it can see.
Ah, the fickle nature of television! I have been bumped but you can still tune in and see Kate be all fierce and awesome. I certainly plan to!
April 10, 2009
| Posted in Action Plan, Fatty Politics
I used to hate the backs of my knees. Like, even as I worked proactively to accept my body and come to terms with it and not spend all my time hating myself, I still hated the backs of my knees. I wore a lot of tights, not just to avoid chaffing and not just because omg tights but because they disguised the back of my knees from view.
After a certain point, though, I just didn’t have the energy to despise that part of my body anymore. I moved on to another – the backs of my elbows. I hate that for a while and then I moved on to a slightly broader hatred of my back.
And then I realized that every body part I had trouble with was a part I never saw. OF COURSE the backs of my elbows looked weird to me – I’d never actually looked at them before so when I saw them, they seemed strange and unknown. Since part of my body hatred involved staring at the part that I hated (I don’t know, maybe I thought confronting it like that would make the unruly parts behave), I kind of accidentally fell into seeing those parts more – they were visible to me, finally.
Visibility aids normalization.
(And I don’t mean that in a conforming sense but a broadening of the accepted standard for visual representation – it happened with body mods over the last two decades: what once was shocking is now the absolute norm. It’s why any subculture that gets attention is thrust into the mainstream for a little while and then ceases to be shocking.)
It was my Intro to Lit Theory class, I think, where I first read American Knees. Shawn Wong writes about interracial dating and identity in this book (it’s not very long, maybe you should read it *grin*) and one of the discussions that grew out of it was that for many protestors of interracial relationships, it seems to come down to visual dissonance. They’ve never SEEN this pairing before – and they expect people to be with other people who look like them.
This is, of course, insanely limiting. And in more areas than just dating! But there is also a lot of truth there – many, many people are more comfortable with things they are already used to seeing – things that do not look unfamiliar.
I think this is why fat people who do not play by the enforced cultural rules of shamed behavior take a lot of flak – this is not what people are used to seeing.
People are used to seeing fatties who are properly dressed in slimming colors like brown or black. Fatties who avoid bold accessories that draw attention. Fatties who pick miserably at a small salad while their thinner dinner companions feast. (Though, if you ask, I’m sure you’d hear that most people only remember the fatty who eats whatever the hell zie wants to eat with no regard for diet!)
And that’s why visibility is, in almost any struggle against systemic oppression, one of the most important tactics. It’s not glamorous or particularly flashy and there generally isn’t a lot of immediate feedback (at least not in any sort of positive way). But consistent visibility ensures that people can’t just write us off and forget about us. Our bodies stop registering as visual dissonance – to ourselves and to others.
If you search Flickr for “fat” there are very few results (you’ll find some of my pictures but I’m bad at tagging) – though there are some great images if you search for 300 pounds (hi, Lesley!) – and most of them are taken by people gawping at a person they consider a spectacle of obesity. It’s ridiculous. I started tagging my photos as fat in direct response to that – someone searching for that tag should see representations of actual fat people. They should be able to see people removed from any false frame of spectacle or voyeurism.
We need to be visible. All of us. Whether it is through clothes or speaking up at the office when one of those awful Biggest Loser competitions gets started in the name of health. Whether it is through being the fattest person at the gym or one in a group of fatties out for a day of shopping.
It’s not always easy to be visible – it opens you up to commentary. Some people will respond to your challenge by hurling insults (or even milkshakes) or catcalling or mockery. But I tend to view these instances as confirmation that I am seen. I possibly watched Pollyana the movie and read the book way too much as a child. *grin* I would rather be seen than be invisible. I would rather exist as a vocal and visual body than as a silent and hiding one, occupied mostly with minimizing myself.
Be seen. It’s way more radical an act than you might think. It’s subversive and powerful and actually useful. Be seen.
December 8, 2008
| Posted in Action Plan, Body Image
I have a coworker. We’ll call him… Edgar, just because I like that name.
Edgar makes, at every opportunity, disparaging remarks about his body, pats his belly, then leans back in his chair and chuckles to himself while the rest of us look around, uncomfortable.
Friday, Edgar and I were the only two people at work and so, when the topic came up, I said to him:
Edgar, you know, you’d probably feel better if you weren’t constantly bashing your own body.
Oh, no, he says, he’s totally comfortable.
No, Edgar, says I, I mean you take every opportunity to say something negative about yourself and it isn’t comfortable for us and I can’t believe it’s comfortable for you.
The topic got changed. A little later, though, he said I’d given him some food for thought that was probably true.
And today? Not a word, not a single negative word about his body. It makes it 900 times easier to be around him.
Now, it was not comfortable to speak up. In fact, it was totally awful. I hate speaking up in work situations.
But it paid off amazingly. I’m not expecting Edgar to never make another self-hating remark ever again (I’m a realist despite my optimism) but it has already made a difference in our working relationship – a difference for the better. If it helps him feel better about himself, then that is even better!
What’s the point of all of this? The point is that if you are in an uncomfortable situation because someone keeps slamming their own worth, it can be worthwhile to speak up.
When you speak up, you aren’t making a needless scene or causing an unnecessary ruckus. You’re protecting your positive working environment.
As women, especially, we’re often taught to put the needs and comforts of other people before our own. I suggest that we reclaim a little of our own comfort, especially when that means closing off a source of body-hating messages.